For the last month or so O has woken up every single morning with the same question:

“Is today a Mommy Daddy Day?”

What he means is, “Is this a weekend where I get the day with both of you?”

The answer, less than 2/7 of the time, is unfortunately “No.” And on some level it kills me. I don’t usually only say, “No” when he asks, I usually end up marketing the day. It goes something like, “No, but the great thing is today you get to go to school and you have swimming lessons. Or, “Today you get to go to the zoo with the nanny and make thank you cards. Or, “Today is a Daddy Day!”

It weighs on me. O is extremely attached and has been since day (before) one. I often think about how he’s as attached as I am. F on the other hand adores his independence.

I traveled all week and fortunately mid-week from Florida I face-timed with the boys. It was delicious really, and settled my aching heart in spite of the fact that the first thing O said when he saw my face was, “Come home, Mommy!”

Being a working parent tugs on us in bizarre ways. But it also elevates us. And as I spent the week crossing the country giving lectures, I was reminded of my strong sense of purpose. My need to speak up and improve the world for my children. The need to scream from the roof tops about revolutionizing health communication. I mean what I say and I believe in what I do. And while the boys thrive, this equation of clinical responsibility and working to change health care, works. The only problem is that this week O might have missed me as much as I did him. I would suggest this new reality is not entirely ideal.

I am certain I want every single second I can get with my boys. I am certain I want to change health care. I am certain I want to see patients in clinic. The equation for perfect balance remains elusive. And I know more than anything that there is a struggle for all of us in achieving balance, working outside the home or not. But bear with me as I digress as working-mom.

Two weeks ago I read an article about Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook) mentioning her leadership for working woman. When speaking she apparently tells women to, “‘Keep your foot on the gas pedal’ and aim high.”

Maybe.

A few days ago, a friend wrote an email from 35,000 feet. She’d just left her children to attend a national meeting. Amidst the clouds, she panicked that she wasn’t doing it all right–wondered if she should be working at all. The work she is doing is improving many peoples’ lives, possibly hundreds of thousands. Even so, at the end of the day, her personal contentment is tantamount and the “correct” decision about work and balance resides only within herself. In an email she attached this quote:

It costs so much to be a full human being…One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying. – Morris West, The Shoes of the Fisherman

It’s in these moments, while reading things like this, I often question the proper way to parent for the future. More than anything, I want the boys content and happy adults. But I also want them to have the tools to live with both arms up and out and open. Ready to help and give in whatever ways they can. But also arms-up & open, ready to enjoy and receive the bounty of living. My formula may look nothing like theirs. And the world will likely be very different 20 years from now for both grown boys and grown girls.

I have no interest in pushing my boys for degrees and Nobel prizes. No need for them to be up early and working late like I am. Just contentment and contribution, however it fits best in their defined future. Often when I write about the struggles of heart for working parents, people point out how strong our example of ethic and work is for our children when we balance these two roles. But how we pass on the need to strive for both integrity and productive work lives by living the way we do and also time for indulgence, self-preservation, and self-care is beyond me…

Tell me what you know. And tell me how you do it.

Balance is moving target. As the boys change and grow, so do their needs as do mine as their mom. When I returned home late this week, I was greeted with glee. Mommy calling cards (see photo), and new songs and tight lasting hugs. O didn’t let go for over a minute. A memory now carved into my amygdala.

I remain excited for my opportunities to contribute to health care and to share what I know while still desperately awaiting my homecomings. And more, I have delighted in the past two mornings where the answer was, “Yes, O, today is a Mommy Daddy Day.”